In any OSHA inspection, the inspector will always check out your basic safety on electrical hazards. There are three reasons why OSHA will always pay attention to electrical safety during inspections AND why any electrical citations will always be considered a serious violation and carry a fine.
- Electrical shock can be fatal. According to OSHA, about five workers are electrocuted each week.
- Electrical fires burn fast. A study by the U.S. Fire Administration found electrical malfunction was the leading cause of 4,065 fires in medical facilities in a two-year period.
- 12% of all deaths to young workers are from electrical hazards according to OSHA.
When they inspect a healthcare facility OSHA will focus on these electrical safety issues:
- Water hazards
- Exposed wires
- Accident hazards
- Emergency response problems
Any outlet at or near enough water to be splashed or flooded must be GFCI protected. This includes all outlets in a bathroom, all outside outlets exposed to the elements including the roof and any outlets near sinks or other water sources like eyewash stations, fountains, dental water lines, etc.
Exposed wires are an accident waiting to happen. Look around your facility. If you have broken or missing faceplates replace them immediately. Be sure to check for these after any construction work as they are easily broken or forgotten. It’s a good idea to keep a couple in your supplies. Holes in walls or ceilings can often contain hot wires. Frayed cords or cords that have been altered to take them from 3-prong to 2-prong connections are big causes of fires. Breaker boxes with open areas are especially dangerous as a fire and touch hazard.
Overloaded outlets, power strips, and extension cords are a leading cause of fires. Dangling cords, especially above water sources can result in damaging and fatal electrical shock.
Household appliances like space heaters, fans, vacuums, microwaves, heating pads and lamps in the workplace must be verified as safe to use with a tag from a national testing laboratory. They must also be in good working order with no loose or frayed cords.
And don’t forget the obvious. When running a cord in your office don’t create a situation where someone can tip and fall.
EMERGENCY RESPONSE PROBLEMS
Your practice needs to have things in place that will allow you to respond quickly in case of shock or electrical fire.
You must have immediate and on-site access to the breaker box to shut down power. Power should be cut off immediately in case of an electrical fire. The fire will follow the wiring quickly and cannot be stopped by water. Having access to the breaker box presents a challenge in multi-office buildings. Someone should always be in the building who can access at least a main breaker switch.
All switches in a breaker box must be labeled even if the label is “Not In Use.” Be sure the trained professionals who do electrical work at your practice check this at the end of any job.
Exit lights and any other existing safety systems like sprinklers must be tested monthly and any problems promptly repaired.
Exit lights must be used unless the building is old enough that they were never wired for exit lights. In that case, you can use exit signs that are made of materials that will make them visible in an emergency.
Taking a few moments on these issues could not only prevent cumbersome OSHA fines but more importantly can prevent serious injuries and fatalities.